THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES
whether due to unrealistic expectations, the watering down of characters, or playing it too safe, sequels are disappointing affairs—which is why i like imagining unintended sequels. for example, scarlett johannson’s presence in “lost in translation” makes for a serendipitous sequel to “ghost world”. picking up five or six years after “ghost world”,...
WAR WITCH (REBELLE)
the late evening screening of “war witch” on sunday was completely empty. but at least that meant i had the luxury of endless elbow space. i even draped my legs inconsiderately over the front row seats. but ninety minutes later, when the lights came on, i looked about in hope of meeting a fellow soul. some films cry out for casual eye contact as the credits roll— just the...
2012 IN REVIEW (much belated)
favorites beasts of the southern wild (an ephemeral film of beauty with no time for sentimentality, but lots of grit and magical realism) django unchained (tarantino once again blurs the boundaries between subversion and exploitation,comedy and cruelty, and genius and masturbation). zero dark thirty (its stance on torture is a red herring, as it...
i have a thing for cocktails. sometimes i’m in the mood for a simple, classic drink like a negroni or an old fashioned. although the palate knows what to expect, when skillfully crafted, negronis can still pack a mean wallop. other times, i’m drawn to fancier alchemy with drinks harboring strange agents like blackberry-basil infused gin, green chartreuse, ferlernum, coconut orgeat...
QUEEN OF VERSAILLES
mom called me distraught. “i have something to tell you”. she then confided she had recently lost $2 million in the market. i didn’t know what to say; i was more awed than shocked. mom always treated her finances as highly classified information— which explains why i had no inkling she even had $2 million to burn. this was during the dot-com bubble of 2001. she told me...
i fell in love with “boogie nights” at first sight. she was a lusty pin-up girl from los angeles who reveled in wild parties, hard drugs, and smutty jokes, yet was whip-smart, sophisticated, and supremely confident. she captivated me for two and a half hours, and then at the very end of the night, bid me the most pleasantly explicit and unforgettable adieu. a few years later, i met “magnolia”. he...
TURN ME ON, DAMMIT!
i found it in a long cardboard box in mom and dad’s closet. it was shiny white and curiously contoured plastic with an imposing stainless steel disc at the end. it had a no-nonsense heft to it. i unspooled the electric cord and inserted the plug into a socket. with my thumb, i carefully slid the switch from “off” to “on”. flooded with electricity, the disc sprang to...
the following was cribbed from the pages of wes anderson’s pre-production notes for “moonrise kingdom”: discover long lost norman rockwell oil painting of summer camp and americana in the attic… craft confectionery dollhouse cake of marzipan and sugar plums based on portrait… borrow old-timey kodak to shoot 35mm prints… take pictures of the pictures with...
ATTACK THE BLOCK
lately, all my favorite american movies seem to be coming from abroad: ”drive” (denmark), “the raid” (indonesia), “13 assassins” (japan), and ”headhunters” (sweden). and by that i mean, i leave the theater mesmerized, only to reflexively lament: why the hell isn’t hollywood making movies like this? (instead of churning out drivel like...
the first two comic books i ever bought were marvel’s “classic x-men” #33 and “avengers” #303. it was the spring of 1989. i was in seventh grade and blossoming into a full-blown nerd. already guilty of dungeons & dragons, commodore 64 games, and junior science chemistry kits, collecting super hero comics was a quantum leap forward in coolness. my adolescent...
17 FILLES ("17 GIRLS")
everyone’s doin’ it. literally. over the past two years, friends have begun breeding. “m” and “t” bore a boy and bought a house. they’re busy, but happy. most admirably, they haven’t disappeared into their own world. “d” never wanted children, but compromised for love. her son is now the driving joy of her life, but she wonders if she’s since lost affection for the father. “r” is pregnant with her...
there is much to loathe about working at mcdonalds: the infantilizing dress code, the cheap, plastic name-tags that still manage to be impersonal, the sickly smell of grease mingled with disinfectant, the endless horde of customers— all in exchange for a minimum hourly pittance. but surely, the most odious indignity is the dispiriting monotony of repetition. fast food labor is not...
THE CABIN IN THE WOODS
a recipe for a perfect thursday evening must surely include: t-shirt weather (california sunshine, warm breezes), fancy summer cocktails (bourbon, lemon, cane sugar, mint, strawberry, absinthe, ice), a wood oven fired neopolitan pizza (margherita di bufala), and a cute girl (befriended on an airplane to chicago during the winter holiday). and as a night-capping digestif, a horror movie at the...
HOW TO DIE IN OREGON
…everybody should do in their lifetime, sometime, two things: one is to consider death; to observe scowls and skeletons and to wonder what it will be like to go to sleep and never wake up. ever. that is a very gloomy thing for contemplation, but it’s like manure. just as manure fertilizes the plants and so on, so the contemplation and the acceptance of death is very highly generative...
JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI
the first time I lost $10,000 in one month playing poker, I was pretty sad. when faced with the aleatory evaporation of large sums of money, some fly into a furious rage perhaps hoping that with sufficient anger they’ll awake from a terrible dream; others convinced of mere bad luck, double down on themselves and pray to win it all back twice as quickly; many turn to the comforting solace of...
ECSTASY OF ORDER: THE TETRIS MASTERS
i’ve known dana wilcox since we were both twenty-something undergrads at uc berkeley. she was in legends-in-their-own-time band blanche devereaux and i was in a scrappy little garage band. we often played the same shows and parties all over town. she once came to see us play at this horrible dive bar. we were in a juvenile mood, “played” for five minutes, trashed our instruments,...
SERBUAN MAUT (THE RAID)
vasovagal syncope is a fainting spell triggered by external distress— commonly, the sight of blood or extreme physical trauma. suffering such a visceral and physiological response to violence in films sounds refreshing and possibly quite fun. i would love to watch “reservoir dogs” for the first time and pass out during the van gogh-inspired cop torture scene, only to regain...
daniel clowes’ work “like a velvet glove cast in iron” is an eerie parade of horribles: odd, menacing characters, bursts of grotesque violence and dismemberment, encounters rife with sexual tension and fetishism, and whiffs of evil conspiracy and the occult. clowes’ clean, almost anti-septic, 1950’s-era illustration style makes his subject matter all the more...
i have a longstanding love/hate ambivalence toward parties. i want parties to be illegal spectacles of stupidity, debauchery, and extravagant excess. but instead, they’re usually timid gatherings of strangers nursing beers while waiting for something interesting to happen. because this reality so often disappoints, i am infatuated with “the jersey shore” and BBC teen show...
2011 IN REVIEW
favorites drive (pure summer fun. the opening scene alone is worth the price of admission) a separation (gripping iranian drama that quietly calls into question the moral imperatives arising from family, class, religion, and self-preservation) tiny furniture (charmingly awkward and spirited movie by an awkwardly charming and spirited lena dunham) tinker tailor soldier spy (sprawling cloak and...
it can be a challenge to go to the movies with my sister who lives 3,000 miles away on the opposite coast. in lieu of flying across the country for an afternoon matinee, we pick a movie on netflix, do a synchronized countdown of “ready… set… go…”, and hit “play” simultaneously. while watching, we instant-message lines from the movie back and forth,...
i’ve never suffered a headache. i’ve also never suffered depression. or maybe i’ve just refused to acknowledge exactly what headaches and depression actually feel like. it’s the tautological prescription of “no pain; no gain pain”. willful obliviousness coupled with skillful sublimation can be uncanny substitutes for health and happiness. but headaches and...
a few weeks ago, my little sister had lunch with ryan gosling— which made for amusing gossip. last friday night, i had dinner and saw “drive” starring gosling with my ex-girlfriend and her current girlfriend— which in certain circles also makes for amusing gossip. c, of course, sat in the middle. during the quiet, heartwarming scenes, c leaned left and whispered jokes in l’s ear; during the...
watching jaded twenty-somethings mumble their way through the post-collegiate question of “what do i do now?” has made for some enjoyable cinema. but what happens when this hipster set of over-educated, chronically unemployed and existentially stricken find themselves still adrift in their thirties? suddenly the question becomes the more dismal: “why haven’t i done anything...
when i first laid my eyes on the trailer for “robogeisha”, my heart was immediately a flutter. the japan-glish voice-over narration, the myriad musings of what “geisha is…”, the campy splatter, the face-melting tengu milk, and of course, THE FRIED SHRIMP— surely, the heralding of the final apotheosis of absurdo-violent japanese b-movies was upon us. but with a...
THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU
roman debeers is today’s surprise guest critic. when not slingin’ ‘d’oeuvres for los angeles caterers party down, roman is a writer. he prides himself on keeping it real by devoting himself strictly to hard sci-fi, liberating himself from all of society’s sexual hang ups, and maintaining a prestigious blog. I don’t know what the hell I was smoking when I said...
UN PROPHETE (A PROPHET)
i didn’t let argentine film “the secret in their eyes” winning the 2009 oscar for “best foreign picture” stop me from falling asleep at least twice in the theater. it felt like an interminably long, over-intellectualized episode of “law and order” set in 1970 buenos aires, but with no redeeming, signature “DUN DUN” sound effect to wake me up...
JUSTIN BIEBER: NEVER SAY NEVER
to the dismay of friends within earshot, justin bieber’s “baby” and ke$ha’s “your love is my drug” were my 2010 summer jams. haters of ke$ha, i understand— particularly after her cringe-worthy performances on SNL (see exhibit A and exhibit B). she is insufferable. but justin? kid grew up in a small, humble town raised by a single teen mom, and now...
i read a small press clipping on “kaboom” a few months ago: The latest film from iconoclastic independent filmmaker Gregg Araki, KABOOM is a hyper-stylized ”Twin Peaks” for the Coachella Generation, featuring a gorgeous young cast. A wild, witty and sex-drenched horror-comedy thriller, KABOOM tells the story of Smith, an ambisexual 18-year-old college freshman who stumbles upon a...
THE 2010 OSCAR NOMINEES
BEST PICTURE: “black swan”, “the fighter”, “inception”, “the kids are all right”, “the king’s speech”, “127 hours”, “the social network”, “toy story 3”, “true grit”, and “winter’s bone”. commentary: with the exception of “127 hours” and “the...
senior year high school, just a few months to graduation, and i’m being pulled out of class and called down to the principal’s office every god damn day. it seems i’ve finally gone too far and the administration is pissed. no one has snitched, but the principal and dean already know i was the one who pilfered a fetal sheep brain from AP bio and slipped it into the cafeteria salad bar inciting...
as a midwest high school student sentenced to late adolescence in the suburbs, my only escape was fireside bowl— a beautifully filthy dive bowling alley in the city where punk bands played on a foot-high, dilapidated stage to kids just looking for something to live for on a friday night. fireside was a shit-hole, but exactly my kinda shit-hole where i could slouch against the wall breathing...
as an only child for ten years, i spent much time absorbed in reading, playing games by myself, and day dreaming. accordingly, i required little discipline. however, one time when caught in a white lie, i asked incredulously how they knew. my parents cleverly informed me that whenever i lied, a little red light glowed upon my forehead. although i went unpunished, the implied caveat of...
L ' ILLUSIONNISTE (THE ILLUSIONIST)
slowly rising from my seat in an empty theater on a monday night, i hoped an usher would be politely waiting at the dimly lit exit to hand me a complimentary single-loaded shotgun so i could finish the job when i got home. i mean, “the illusionist” was really just that good. “the illusionist” is a french masterpiece and achieves what “wall*e” and...
“true grit” made me nostalgic for the bygone era when americans flocked to theaters on sundays to catch the latest western for an afternoon matinee of magical escapism. instead, we get 21st century claptrap like “avatar” and “transformers 3” aiming to shock and awe audiences into submission with its SUPER-CGI-IMAX-3D armaments. but even decades after spaghetti...
HANYO (THE HOUSEMAID)
released in south korea in 1960, “the housemaid” is regarded as one of the all-time great films of south korean cinema. but like many golden age classics, viewed now through a lens of modernity, the cinematic experience is more patient art appreciation and sociological study rather than pure enjoyment. the beauty lies in the theme, the pacing, the cinematography, and mise en scene...
2010 IN REVIEW
favorites winter’s bone (the ozarks at its bleakest and most frightening and a young girl at her most powerful.) black swan (stylish modern-day fairy tale cum art-house thrill ride.) carlos (five hour epic retelling of 1970’s international-jetset-casanova-terrorist carlos the jackal.) blue valentine (sublime sadness.) true grit (a near perfect sunday afternoon matinee.) ...
i was subjected to the trailer for ”blue valentine” at least a half dozen times, and every time, my eyes rolled and i suppressed a gag reflex at yet another navel-gazing, indie mumblecore movie where misfit boy perchance meets quirky girl and the audience bears witness to a precious, hipster romance replete with hand-wringing existentialism and Pitchfork-approved soundtrack. it was...
THE KING'S SPEECH
the question, “am i really spending a saturday night watching a two-hour early 20th century period drama on the succession of King George VI and his struggle with an excruciating stuttering problem?”, arose at the particular moment i suddenly realized i was surrounded by and sharing armrests with old white married folk in a darkened, san francisco theater. nonetheless, i remained...